Godfathers and godmothers play a special role in a child's life. Here's how to select them well.
You’re about to baptize your child and your need to choose godparents. The choice should not be made lightly — you won’t be able to change your mind later on. Here are five criteria to take into consideration as you decide…
The prime mission of a godparent is to support you in educating your child in the faith, and praying for your child. Some children are sponsored by adults who don’t believe in God and don’t practice the Catholic faith. Yet the Church asks that godparents not only be baptized but also confirmed, for confirmation strengthens faith and commits them to being an active member of the Church. For an adolescent, a godparent who prays and commits themselves unashamedly to the heart of the Church is like a compass, an open door for dialogue at an age when they often need role models to talk with.
Of course, every adult may go through periods of trial, times of doubt, but a godparent committed to Christ will know how to show his or her godchild the path of humble and faithful perseverance. Godparents are not simple distributors of gifts; they point out the star to follow. They seek to lead their godchild to Jesus by showing him or her how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are at work in their lives and in their hearts.
Godparents are often expected to step in for parents in difficult times, particularly during adolescence. Free of the ties of authority, a godparent can offer time and advice to godchildren. Their lives lived according to the Gospel provide an example, and the child who finds a guide in a godparent receives a treasure.
The closeness between a godparent and godchild is a powerful link that a child can cling to in times of difficulty. But this joyful and faithful attachment is modeled on the friendship between the parents and godparents. So, at the time of choosing, the parents must be sensitive to the depth of their friendship with the godparents. The closer they are, the more a child will wish in turn to share in that friendship.
3An open and generous heart
It’s difficult for a young parent of a large family to make a special fuss of godchildren or get to know them intimately. Similarly, some godparents can be overwhelmed because they have too many godchildren. Likewise, children whose godparents live abroad won’t get much chance to share quality time with them. Generally, choosing a sponsor with limited time for family and friends may prove problematic. The relationship between a child and a godparent is formed over time, time spent together, meetings, regular exchanges, and, ideally, from the child’s earliest age. But, what matters most is not necessarily the length of those shared moments, but the quality: it’s the godparent’s personal generosity of spirit that makes the biggest difference.
If the godparent is himself a child, does he have the necessary maturity to take on such a responsibility? If they are still immature with regard to faith, they risk later changing their point of view, of abandoning the Christian life. As a matter of prudence, even though a teenager may be capable of witnessing his faith to a godchild, the Church asks that a godparent have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
In some families, the criteria for choosing godparents is more a question of convention than personal choice. But it’s important to choose people who would really be pleased to be asked. It’s possible to choose someone as a kind of moral debt or thank you: a single member of the family, a childless couple, a friend who was a witness at your marriage, a cousin who’s never been a godmother, etc. While these choices may be the best ones, make sure the motivation isn’t being dictated by guilt or obligation.
Calmly navigating all the possible choices of godparents isn’t mission impossible as long as you bear two things in mind: freedom and truth. To make the right choice, in prayer, is to offer your child a guiding light that will lead them toward the Father.
Laetitia Grenet and Anna Latron
How to choose your child’s godparents